ON SITTING STILL AND SAVORING.

Posted by Tori on May 16, 2013 in a good word., beauty, thankful heart.

I’m sitting alone in my “spot.” The house is quiet (except for someone’s snoring…), and I’m curled up with my keyboard and a good book, spending some time sitting still with Lord. Today I turned 27. This day has been filled with such sweetness to me — with seeing the sacred in the ordinary. Savoring each moment with this man and these babies He’s given, not being in such a hurry. Today, I just slowed down — took it all in, and if it wasn’t crossed off of the to-do list at the end of the day, it’s alright.

I had a special date night with my little 3-year-old-man. He is the sweetest, silliest boy I know.

I’ve been just flooded with His grace to me through the priceless friendships He’s blessed me with. I do not deserve to know and be loved by such incredible people.

I’ve had cake with every meal (yes, even breakfast). Don’t judge me on my birthday.

And…I’ve been thinking about this wild ride of a life He’s pouring out. 20 years with Him, and each moment is sweeter than the one before. Not one thing compares to knowing Him.

Not one.

So, I’m gonna sit here in my spot a minute more. Savoring His graciousness and mercy toward this soul that deserves just the opposite.

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ILL-MATCHED THREADS.

Posted by Tori on Apr 25, 2013 in a good word., beauty, thankful heart.

(Normally, when I return from a long blogging break [which is, admittedly, way too often], I normally feel the need to break the ice with a comment or a post explaining myself, etc. This time, an acknowledgement is all I’m making. Glad to be back at my keyboard once again.)

I’ve been in a mood to re-read literature that I once fell in love with but haven’t picked up in ages. It has really been so refreshing and fun. I came across this little gem from Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God.

“She who reconciles the ill-matched threads
of her life, and weaves them gratefully
into a single cloth —
it is she who drives the loudmouths from the hall
and clears it for a different celebration
 
where the one guest is you.”

 I remember reading this for the first time in middle school and loving it. The rest of the poem is equally as good. Our lives are all made up of ill-matched threads. And they’re all different. Mine aren’t the same as yours. And each one of us will do or make something different with them. Truly, He’s the one weaving the cloth. I’m seeing it’s beauty forming and learning to hand over the threads more readily. With gratitude even. Most of the time. I’m seeing more and more His masterful design in each ill-matched, chaotic mess of thread. And the most beautiful part of it all? The celebration that’s all for Him. He alone is worthy of celebrating. He alone is worthy of glory for the redemption and the restoration of a once broken and lifeless soul.

Here’s the rest of the poem:

“In the softness of evening
it’s you she receives.
 
You are the partner of her loneliness,
the unspeaking center of her monologues.
With each disclosure you encompass more
and she stretches beyond what limits her,
to hold you”

Lord, you’re everything to me. The threads may appear ill-matched and messy, but they pass through your fingers before they ever come to me. And, I am grateful. So, so grateful.

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TO FEEL A PRAYER

Posted by Tori on Feb 18, 2013 in a good word., thankful heart., theology

I have been thinking, and practicing, and learning more and more about prayer in recent weeks. [As if God had something He intended to teach me 😉 ] It’s at times like these that I often find it difficult to articulate all that I’m taking in from everything that life holds right now. But, I will try.

Because another season will come when I will need to look back and be reminded of these lessons. Because the Word of God was not given to build up our theology; it was given to change our reality. That’s why I study. That’s why I write the way I do. Because His Word is is alive, and it changes us. That’s why theology is so important — not so we’ll be smarter — but so we will be different, more like Him.

There have been countless, endless words written and spoken on what it means to pray, and how one should do it. I don’t have anything relevant to contribute to that conversation…at least not now. But, I will share a few elements I’ve been focusing on currently:

1. We are to pray with persistence. Even to the point of seeming annoyance.

I love the example Jesus gives in Luke 11:5-13 when teaching His disciples to pray. He talks about a friend who comes knocking at his neighbor’s door at midnight asking for bread to serve an unexpected guest. The neighbor calls back to his friend to go away because his house is already sleeping. But, if his friend keeps on knocking and asking for the bread, he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

I’m not a fan of this usually, but let’s modernize just for kicks. You’re tired and sleeping. Your whole house is sleeping. You are awakened by a text, but ignore it and roll over. Then, they call. You silence the phone, huff, and roll over again. Then, it rings again. Finally, you get up and answer the phone. Not because it was your friend who wanted something, but because they kept on calling.

I love this about Jesus. For SO many reasons. I love that I don’t have to walk away discouraged because I think He’s silent. It doesn’t mean He doesn’t hear, or doesn’t care, or wants me to stop asking. I love that it’s okay to be annoying in how often I bring something to Him. He can take that. In fact, He takes delight in it.

2. We can approach our Father in prayer with confidence & humility. These two are not conflicting. We come full of passion, emotion, raw honesty, truth, and surrender.

I love this picture of confidence clothed in humility as we approach the Lord in prayer. We come humble, bowing low, realizing that in our prayer, we have audience with the Most High, the Maker of heaven and earth. We bow low, perhaps both symbolically and physically, in reverence. Yet, we come with the full confidence awarded to us by the finished work of Christ.

Few things get me charged up like the book of Hebrews. I LOVE spending time there (I think I have some writing to do about this book….). And, even fewer things get me fired up like chapter 10. It might just be one of my favorite portions in all of Scripture. Read what the author says in verses 19-25.

“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

So, the book of Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians, explaining the inadequacy of the Law and it’s role as a shadow of what was to come in Christ. Christ is the complete fulfillment for the religious system that these Jews had known and been taught their whole lives. That’s mainly what the beginning of this chapter is making clear (10:1-19). (I’m really fighting the urge to unpack all 19 of these verses right now…because IT’S SO GOOD!!!)  Bottom line: The first section of 10:1-25 explains the necessity and efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice (10:1-18), and the second applies that truth to the lives of the readers (10:19-25), which is the part we’re interested in today.

What we learn about prayer here is that, as believers, we are to draw near to God in full assurance that Christ’s blood is an adequate covering and cleansing agent for our souls.  This involves recognition of who we are in Christ, and agreement with God that His sacrifice is complete and enough to save us.  We are able to approach Him boldly as His children, whom He loves and has redeemed.

The doctrine of the priesthood of Jesus is a major theme throughout the book of Hebrews, but it is sort of a foreign concept to Western believers in our culture today. We should remember that, under the Law, only the high priest was permitted to enter the holy of holies once a year on the Day of Atonement. As he entered, he sprinkled blood from the sin offering on the mercy seat and offered incense. But, now, we read that through the high priestly work of Christ, we can have “confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19-20).

This leads us beautifully into our next consideration…

3. We are to pray according to His Word and in His name.

John 14:13-15 says, “Whatever you ask in my name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Compare these verses to similar Scriptures on asking things of the Lord in prayer.

John 15:7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

1 John 5:14–15, “If we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

Mark 11:24, “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Here in John 14, we don’t find any of the conditions italicized in the verses above. Instead, there is only one condition: “in my name.” So, does this imply that we can ignore all the other conditions: abide in him; ask according to his will; believe his word? Or, could it be, that, as John Piper suggests, all these are included in the meaning of asking in my name?

I think so. I think that’s what Jesus would say.

And, in case I have to say it, it is inappropriate to tack “in Jesus’ name” on the end of anything you want to pray.

Praying “in Jesus’ name” means that we come, asking: For His fame, not mine. Because of His infinite worth. On the basis of the payment He made on the cross. According to His wisdom (submission to His wise will and plan). Anything asked on that basis for the glory of the Father; anything prayed for through the filter of His fame, His worth, His purchase, and His wisdom will be answered and done.

And we are promised to have everything we need to do the work He’s called us to do. Like Jesus says in John 14:12, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.

Now, that’s powerful.

There’s a big difference in “God, be glorified in what I’m doing.” and “God, do your thing for your glory.” That’s what I want to pray. And that’s how I want to live.

4. He loves. He listens. He responds.

Friends, the One we approach in prayer is our Father. Prayer gives us fellowship with Him. Because of Christ, we can come to Him at any time, with any thing. Prayer continually teaches us to see our world, and our circumstances with the eyes of eternity. He is for us. And my soul is ever grateful.

As our kindred spirit, Anne, once said:

“Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I’d look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer.”
― L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Green Gables

Might be loose theology, but we’re benefited to remember the freedom we have to approach Him as His daughters and sons.

Never forget the enormous gift and privilege that we have to come to Him anytime, anywhere, with anything.

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2012: LOOKING BACK AND RECOUNTING THE WONDERS

Posted by Tori on Dec 31, 2012 in a good word., beauty, coffee, family., thankful heart.

Recounting the wonders. As I was forming vision for this site, the Lord kept bringing the words of Psalm 40:5 back to me. Over and over. It’s a verse that has meant a lot to me over the years. On my wedding day, it’s what I prayed would become the testimony of my marriage. And, I can honestly say — as I look back over my life, my marriage, my years as a mother — is my testimony. It has remained true in every season.

“Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.”

But, that’s what I want to try to do — recount the wonders He has done — as I remember all that 2012 has brought. When I was sketching out ideas and remembering things that have happened this past year, so many things flooded back to me. Were I to revisit all of them, we would be here until next year. So, at the bottom of the post, you’ll find some of my favorite moments in pictures.

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Writing is so important to me. The Lord uses the writing process in so many ways to grow me spiritually. That’s part of the reason I love blogging so much (one of the selfish reasons, I guess). So, here are some posts that have really changed me and meant something very deep to me.

 Dear Ayden
Jesus Lives
What’s Real and What’s Not
Sowing and Reaping
I Exalt Thee
ONE THING REMAINS (Probably my most treasured from 2012.)
Sovereign Over Us
Stronger (No Playing Favorites)
That’s What it’s all About
We Serve a King and a Kingdom
Perfect Doesn’t Mean Pretty

This year has been full. Full of great things, full of hard things, but mostly just full of His faithfulness. I am thankful that the Lord designed us for seasons, and that He’s constantly at work in us and for us — whether we realize it or not. So, I am closing the book on 2012 with a grateful heart. Lessons learned and ready to embrace what’s coming in 2013. Thankful that He uses even (or especially) the hard and confusing things to prepare us and work good for what’s to come.

Whether this year has been one of plenty, blessing, and abundance, or one of pain, difficulty, and confusion, rest in the truth that He is. (In Greek it’s Ego Eimi). I AM. He’s got this and He’s got you. Right in the center of His sight & His hand. He won’t be surprised by anything that comes along with 2013. He’s busy making something way bigger and better than we can see. For our good. And His glory.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

 

 Cheers!

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DUST SETTLING

Posted by Tori on Dec 28, 2012 in family., thankful heart.

Whew! What a wild ride this last week has been! It’s been so nice to have a “vacation,” but there’s something happy about settling back into normalcy — or whatever that is. You know. Have you ever had a vacation, but then came back feeling like you needed a vacation? I think that’s just how it is when you celebrate Christmas with little ones sometimes. But boy did we have fun. Here’s a few of the highlights:

Ayden ready to go hunting…so he thinks.

Chelsea & Uncle Mitch

Can you imagine how chaotic this process is?!

Thank you, SaSa!

Because once you open the helmet, you have to wear it while you unwrap everything else, right?

You know, this Christmas was one unlike any other I’ve had. I really went into it with a heavy, burdened heart. Christmas Eve was pivotal for me. It’s where He began to shift things around. I realized that what I needed that night was exactly the gift we would be celebrating the next morning. Just my heart wasn’t in the celebrating mood. See, I think that’s what happens when we forget what the whole thing is all about in the first place. I knew in my head that it’s not about the presents, or the food, or the people you’re with, or the circumstances, but there was a disconnect somewhere. While all of those things can make me happy, none of them can satisfy. Only He can do that. Only His joy, His peace, His hope. Everything else falls overwhelmingly short.

How thankful I am that He is with us. And that He never changes. Never walks away. Resting in that makes everything else seem so temporary. And it is. Makes me want to make the most of the vapor that is my life here. Makes me want to press harder, lean in more closely, and open my eyes to all that awaits.

I could not be more excited about what this new year brings. I am along for the ride, wherever He wants to take us.

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WEIGH YOUR WORDS

Posted by Tori on Dec 18, 2012 in a good word., thankful heart.

I have gone back and forth about whether or not I should post about the recent tragedy in Newtown, CT. Bloggers have handled this event in very different ways – some choosing to remain prayerful & silent, others sharing their own process of grief, others choosing to engage in a discussion on the problem of evil & God’s sovereignty, while still others have used their space to criticize and correct the words of their fellow writers. To be honest, I didn’t want to do any of that. There is a time and a place for academic dialogue on the problem of evil. It is a discussion with great value. But, the grief-stricken families of Newtown don’t really need a philosopher right now. (A theologian, perhaps…but I don’t think I’m her.) I have found that in the wake of extreme tragedy any words of comfort we utter out of a hurried response will likely come with later regret. There are so many words that could be said, but I believe, for now, they are better left unspoken.

So, I write today because I don’t want to pass over the events of last Friday without acknowledgement. My words are feeble and inadequate. My heart is broken and I am praying fervently for those precious families. We are reminded so harshly of the reality of our current existence. There is present evil. But, there is also an ever-present Savior. And we need Him. We celebrate His Incarnation at Christmas. He has come, has suffered, defeated sin and death, and He lives! But, we eagerly await the day He returns. That day is coming. And He will set all things right. For now, we are to be His hands and feet. Loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, & strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Come, Lord Jesus.

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REASONS TO SING

Posted by Tori on Dec 5, 2012 in a good word., coffee, thankful heart.

Man. Over the past couple of days I have had (what seems like) a million deep ponderings swirling around in my mind and heart. It’s hard to pin them all down. And maybe I don’t need to. At the end of the day, though, one thought remains vibrant and clear: I am so grateful.

For life,
for new beginnings,
for thunderstorms,
for sunrise,
for the crisp winter breeze,
for people,
for silence,
for laughter,
for sips of coffee,
for each breath.

For Him — all by Himself — He never leaves; never changes; always loves… always is exceedingly, abundantly more.

And His Word.

Psalm 103:1-5
1 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
3 Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
4 Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
5 Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.

 

Job 26:7-14
7 “He stretches out the north over empty space
And hangs the earth on nothing.
8 “He wraps up the waters in His clouds,
And the cloud does not burst under them.
9 “He obscures the face of the full moon
And spreads His cloud over it.
10 “He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters
At the boundary of light and darkness.
11 “The pillars of heaven tremble
And are amazed at His rebuke.
12 “He quieted the sea with His power,
And by His understanding He shattered Rahab.
13 “By His breath the heavens are cleared;
His hand has pierced the fleeing serpent.
14 “Behold, these are the fringes of His ways;
And how faint a word we hear of Him!
But His mighty thunder, who can understand?”

 

Luke 1:46–55
46 “My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

I am overwhelmed that this great God would condescend to save one such as me.

I love that His Word speaks for itself, tearing down every man-made wall, penetrating the heart and soul, transcending all generations and all cultures, standing forever.

Ask Him to speak fresh today. Loud and clear.  For when He does, you won’t be the same. And neither will your world.

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SUNDAY SNUGGLES

Posted by Tori on Dec 3, 2012 in a good word., family., thankful heart.

I am so thankful for these days. This time when my children are small. I know all to well how fleeting these moments are. I want to drink them in. I don’t want to miss one single thing the Lord has for us in this season. Our Sunday, the first day of Advent for us, did not look as I anticipated. (I love when He does that. His plans are so much better anyway.) We woke up to a sick little Chelsea this morning. She was just still and snuggly. We spent the morning snuggled down in the living room together. I am so thankful that we can participate with our church live online for mornings like this one too.

As the day went on, Chelsea slowly regained her strength and began to act more like her normal, smiley self. While the girls napped, we put up and began to decorate our Christmas tree. Ayden had the absolute best time. He really is soaking in all of these Christmas preparations. It is magical to watch his joy, wonder, and anticipation. I pray that what sticks in his mind and heart is the excitement, joy, and wonder of Christ coming as a baby to redeem God’s people back to Himself — way more than the lights, the tree, the presents.

After baths, we piled up pillows on the floor next to the Christmas tree and began our Jesus Storybook Bible Advent readings. Sweet times for my soul. After everyone was tucked into their beds, I had a quiet moment to myself to ponder all these things. I am grateful that He is making me ever aware of my incredible need for a Savior. Oh, how I need Him.

“Is not my word like fire, says the Lord!” (Jeremiah 23:29)

Gather ‘round that fire this Advent season. It is warm. It is sparkling with colors of grace. It is healing for a thousand hurts. It is light for dark nights. (from Good News of Great Joy, John Piper)

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thanksgiving: not just to be celebrated once a year.

Posted by Tori on Nov 17, 2012 in a good word., thankful heart.

In 1912, J.R. Miller wrote this about giving thanks:

“Christian thanksgiving is the life of Christ in the heart, transforming the disposition and the whole character. Thanksgiving must be wrought into the life as a habit—before it can become a fixed and permanent quality.

We must persist in being thankful. Thanksgiving has attained its rightful place in us, only when it is part of all our days and dominates all our experiences.

Every day of our years should be a thanksgiving day.

He who has learned the Thanksgiving lesson well has found the secret of a beautiful life.”

Easier said than done, right? It is all the work of His Spirit in us, not something we have to muster on our own. In the flesh, none of us would choose it.

I just finished up a Bible study series on the book of Job with some incredible women. (You can actually listen to all of the sessions here. You will be blessed, I promise.) I have studied the book of Job in depth before, but the Lord taught me so much more this time around. I love that about His Word. It is alive – always fresh, powerful, and relevant. Job’s account is hard. It teaches deep truth & nuances about the character of our God that we would not understand to the extent we do apart from suffering, and it also teaches us that the mysteries of God are an important aspect of our theology.

Job had more adversity than any of us will probably ever experience in our lifetime. Yet, after receiving all the reports of the devastation of all he owned and the death of his 10 precious children – in the same day – his response was this: “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.’ Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God” (Job 1:20-22, NASB, emphasis mine).

It was after Job suffered all of that terrible loss that his body was plagued with sores from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. His wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9, NASB) But Job told her, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” The verse ends, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10, NASB).

The Lord promises that whatever suffering, difficulties, or hardships we face, to satisfy our soul with Himself. We have His Word on it. So even in the midst of tragedy, we can have thankful hearts. Perhaps not thankful for the tragedy, but for who our God is in it. Thanksgiving is a bold exercise of our faith when we face storms.

So, whether you are in a season of blessing or a season of struggle this time of year, I encourage you to be bold and thorough in your thanks to Him. Not just on November 22, but each and every day He gifts you with breath. He is so, so worthy. And our time here is so, so short.

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it’s time!

Posted by Tori on Oct 18, 2012 in thankful heart., video.

This weekend, my sweet friend, Carrie, is getting married! I could not be more excited or happy for her if she was my own sister. She is one of my dearest friends. We shared life together in college and she has continued to be there for me through all that has changed since those days. I am so honored that she asked me to be a part of her ceremony. I cannot wait to stand with her and for her. There’s something about a wedding that I just love. The weight of that moment when Heaven meets earth and the Lord unites two to make one. It’s such a beautiful picture of His Gospel. I ask the Lord’s most abundant blessings on Carrie & Stephen. I know their life together won’t always be happy or easy, but I pray that, regardless, they will always grasp His goodness in any circumstance and learn to dance to the tune of His heart. I pray that their marriage will produce incredible fruit for the Kingdom. So…here’s to you, Carrie. I love you more than you know. Can’t wait for all that’s ahead.

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